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Reckitt Benckiser's carbon credit scheme destroying B.C. farmland, says NDP

06/26/2015 02:26 EDT | Updated 06/26/2016 05:59 EDT
Thousands of hectares of B.C. farmland may be ruined for food production for hundreds of years by a British chemical company's carbon credit scheme, according to the B.C. NDP.

Company Reckitt Benckiser bought over 10,500 hectares of agricultural land in Northern B.C. in order to plant trees and bank carbon credits.

The company website says since launching the program in 2006 it has planted seven million trees on land in B.C. that was previously cleared, with the aim of offsetting the carbon emissions of its manufacturing operations by 2017.

But according to Lana Popham, the NDP agriculture and food critic, the land should be protected for farming food, not trees.

"This land could potentially be out of production for hundreds of years because it's now owned by this corporation in the UK," said Popham.

Popham says even though the land was included in the Agricultural Land Reserve, that was not enough to protect it from being taken out of agricultural production.

That's why she is demanding B.C.'s Ministry of Agriculture introduce legislation to prevent inappropriate use of farmland in the future.

"We could've avoided it by having legislation that basically had a mechanism that sent it to the Agricultural Land Commission for approval, and in this case, I don't think this way of using the land would've been approved by the commission."

Legislation needed?

Popham has already drafted her own private members bill, which she plans to introduce to farmers in Prince George this weekend.

But she says the Ministry of Agriculture needs to take action to prevent the problem in future.

Previously B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick has said such legislation already exists.

"In November of 2011, the government put a change to the ALC Act which says that a covenant … that restricts or prohibits use of agriculture land for foreign purposes has no effect until approved by the commission," he said in April.

On Friday, Letnick also noted the company did not break any rules.

"Growing trees is a permitted use on agricultural land. People do it all the time. The challenge is, we don't want people to be putting trees on good, productive agricultural land for 100 years and just take away the possibility of growing food on that land."

Reckitt Benckiser has not returned the CBC's calls for comment, but has reportedly stopped buying up farmland in B.C. for carbon offsets because of the negative media attention.

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